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Friday, January 13, 2012

Public input sought on environment

By Elizabeth Kirchner

On Tuesday, Jan. 17, the Fairfax County Environmental Quality Advisory Council (EQAC) will hold a public hearing seeking a citizen’s-eye view of the “state of the environment in Fairfax County.” It starts at 7:30 p.m. in the Board Auditorium at the Fairfax County Government Building.

The hearing gives citizens an opportunity to “identify environmental issues applicable to Fairfax County” that might otherwise be overlooked by the county government.

Traditionally, hearings have occurred annually, but this one follows fast on the heels of the last one, held in November, possibly because a number of speakers intend to weigh in on the effect of uranium mining on Fairfax County drinking water. State-level conversations on uranium mining in southern Virginia have gotten louder since a National Academy of Sciences report on the safety of uranium mining in the state was delivered to the Virginia legislature in December.

Individuals and representative of environmental groups, such as the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Friends of Accotink Creek, and the Audubon Society, generally speak at these hearings, says Noel Kaplan of the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Zoning, who is organizing this community outreach. “Usually it’s a five-minute talk or so. It’s very conversational.” A printed copy of a speech is helpful to the council for later reference and communication to the Board of Supervisors.

In previous years, people spoke on a variety of topics, including innovative storm water management strategies and tax support for green energy. They encouraged bans on Styrofoam and the wider use of pervious concrete in county infrastructure, reducing light pollution to save birds, and supplied documentation supporting bigger tree canopies. Summaries of previous talks reflect how issues change and how they stay the same, and are posted online.

EQAC is made up of one citizen representative from each magisterial district, four at-large members, and one student representative. Members are appointed by the Board of Supervisors to advise the board on environmental issues of concern—perhaps hidden concern—to the county.

If you want to speak at the hearing, contact Noel Kaplan, 703/324-1369.

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